Well, soon it'll be 2009 Academy Award winner Wall-E, but which of Pixar's eight previous wonders of the movie world will this week's apparent masterpiece be supplanting atop the list? Every Pixar movie has its proponents: Foodies love Ratatouille; sentimentalists love Toy Story; dads love Finding Nemo; cars love Cars. But which is actually the best? And which is the worst? And what does "worst" mean when you're talking about Pixar? Vulture breaks it down, after the jump.
8. Cars (2006)
While it's the only Pixar movie that never once gives the non-9-year-old-male that sense of effortless wonder that's usually the hallmark of the Pixar experience, Cars isn't at all a bad movie. If this were a list of all movies, organized by quality, we'd put Cars somewhere around Predator: entertaining, but a movie that's obviously targeted to a specific audience and is of only modest interest to those outside that audience. Bonnie Hunt is adorable even in car form, though.
7. The Incredibles (2004)
Brad Bird's movie is undeniably entertaining, and perhaps the most visually wonderful of all the Pixar movies, but it suffers slightly in our estimation owing to its (inescapable) similarity to many other superheroes-gone-straight stories we've read in any number of revisionist comic books. Nevertheless, Edna Mode is an inspired creation, and we'd watch this movie a hundred times before we'd watch Superman Returns once.
6. A Bug's Life (1998)
Sometimes referred to as Pixar's only bomb — and that term is relative, as the movie "only" made $162 million in the United States — A Bug's Life has one of the most straightforward (or, if you prefer, simplistic) plots of all Pixar movies: A misfit goes on a journey, then returns home to protect his people. But with great characters and great performances — including Dave Foley as Flik, Kevin Spacey as the grasshopper villain, and beloved Pixar story chief Joe Ranft as Heimlich the caterpillar — A Bug's Life stands up surprisingly well.
5. Toy Story (1995)
The jewel in Pixar's crown and the movie that first demonstrated what computer animation could accomplish, Toy Story supplies laughs, wonderment, and adventure in equal doses — plus the scariest villain in Pixar history, psychopathic next-door neighbor Sid.
4. Ratatouille (2007)
Though it sags a little in the middle, Ratatouille — like its rodent-chef hero — earns its acclaim through a combination of God-given genius (in the form of Brad Bird) and endless hard work (on the part of the animators and musicians who somehow made flavor cinematic). Bonus points for Anton Ego, whose turnaround from villain to hero is positively Grinch-like.
3. Toy Story 2 (1999)
The rare sequel that's even better than the original, Toy Story 2 takes a question that no one's ever really thought about — what would it be like to be a toy, and to find out you've been mass-produced? — and used it to craft an adventure filled with profound ideas on individuality, friendship, and family. Plus, as seen above, Kelsey Grammer's Stinky Pete farts in his box!
2. Finding Nemo (2003)
Touching, exciting, and endlessly beautiful, Finding Nemo — Wall-E director Andrew Stanton's last Pixar movie, and the company's biggest hit — is an enduring classic, one of the best stories of fathers and sons ever filmed. It also features the (unlikely) greatest performance in Pixar's canon, Ellen DeGeneres's addled but true-hearted Dory.
1. Monsters, Inc. (2001)
It's not the funniest of Pixar's movies. It's not the prettiest. It's not the most grown-up. But in telling this fanciful tale of the monsters who haunt children's closets, the filmmakers at Pixar found their perfect story. Monsters, Inc. inhabits the intersection of childhood mystery and adult responsibility, exploring the tension between dreams and reality that defines the greatest stories for children. When the movie ends, with the miraculous opening of a door and a singular love renewed … well, let's just say it takes a stronger viewer than us not to shed a tear, even seven years later. If Wall-E can match that, it'll be something special.
Related: David Edelstein on Wall—E [NYM]